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Our Travelogue to Turkey

From Greece, I hitchiked to Turkey in the summer of 1987 after I was thrown out of the train for sleeping in through my train stop. What a civilized country, those greeks?? I finally arrived in Turkey with an Irish friend called Mark Snell from Youghal county of Cork, that I had met at the border between Greece and Turkey near Edirne. We crossed at the border of Pazarkule, there was only a couple of cars in front of us. In this town, I stopped at the bank to get some Turkish money; the currency of the country is called the Turkish Lira, TL for short. Unfortunately, I missed the most important tourist sites of the town: The Mosques of Selim, Beyazit II and the Eski Cami. We could not wait to get to Istanbul and back then in 1987 we were not aware of those famous sites. We arrived at the edge of hectic Istanbul, but we had no clue where downtown was located after all this was a city of nine million people.

We had a tourist book which had many of the most important words and phrases of the Turkish language. There it was "Nerede shehir meretze" Where is downtown (sorry for my Turkish spelling). To my surprise, the first person we tried our Turkish sentence understood it and they pointed towards where we should go. I was happy to know that the Turks had the same alphabet as we do,not like the Greeks.

We found a cheap yellow hotel downtown by what looked like a mosque. To my surprise, in the room we found black man shoes under the bed. Without thinking I just threw them through the window not realizing that there was a mosque not far and by accident they landed on it.

Most of the time we went for lunch by the famous Galata Bridge, with the lower and upper sections. We loved to buy fried fish in a big piece of bread, right from the boats who had charcoal barbecues. I noticed that the food was healthier than Greece. There were a lot of foods with yogurt and eggplants. One thing that I loved was their big peaches twice the regular size. I loved the white ones even more, they reminded me of the ones that we have in Portugal.

The famous blue and white boat Achille Lauro who was hijacked by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985 was in port. It was eventually destroyed by fire the 30th of November in 1994. We also visited a spectacular underground Byzantine cistern. The Yerebatan Cistern is the largest of its kind. It was built in the year of 532. It was dark but, some spotlights added interesting colors to the gigantic pillars. There was still some water there. One of our favorites day trips was to take a public water ferry and cross the Bosporus straight that separates Asia from Europe, it's a short trip on the Marmara Sea. After all, Istanbul is the only city in the world that is located in two continents. Most of the population of the city lives in the European side.

We visited the Grand Bazar, it is so huge thta you need a map if you really want to adventure yourself in the further parts . This market is the largest of its kind in the world. It's covered and has close to 4000 shops and stalls. There are banks, restaurants and even Mosques under its roof. No wonder you can easily get lost in it.

We never visited any Mosques but they seem to be everywhere. The Blue Mosque also called Sultan Ahmet Mosque and the Suleymaniye Mosque built in 1550 are two of the most important ones.

After a few days in Istanbul, we went to Izmir and stayed there for a while and we visited this area. Fields of sunflower can be seen as you travel in the bus to this major city. We were dying to see the sea so we went to a town called Cesme by the Aegean Sea which had exceptional clear water. The resort is 85 km from Izmir it has the reputation of being on one of the most beautiful stretches of beaches in the country. When we went in 1988 the town was much smaller, but now there are 100 000 people living there. One day we made our way to the town of Pamukkale and Ephesus.

Before getting to Ephesus, we visited Meryemana where the House of Mary is located. The apostle John, apparently brought Mary mother of Jesus to this place after Jesus died so he could take care of her. (I think I was there , but we visited so many sites that I am not totally sure) There were other monuments, some were part of the seven wonders of the ancient world as was told by a Swedish doctor that I had met in Kasudasi. I spent an afternoon strolling around with her. She told me about Artemis or Aphrodite the Goddess of fertility and crops. Ephesus is an amazing place . All the Bible history makes this place alive.

Eyewitnesses considers Ephesus one of the greatest ruined cities in the western world. I was surprised that some of the tourist guides were talking about the Ephesus port. Standing on a hill, I could not even see any water nearby. In my opinion the greatest monument in Ephesus was the Library of Celcus built in AD 114-117. The facade was really well- preserved there were also a lot of statues with missing heads. I also enjoyed seeing the theatre. Also, other great monuments are the temple of Hadrian, Gate of Hercules, Colonnaded Street. They are truly great places to visit. In Turkey, there are traces everywhere of the Romans who ruled their Eastern Empire from Constantinople now called Istanbul.

In Pamukkale we enjoyed some of the best hot springs anywhere in the world. The town, which means "Cotton Castle" in Turk, is located in the Denizli Province near Izmir. A series of calcite-laden, natural swimming pools, resembling terraces, come down on the side of hills as high as 200 meters. The calcite pools as white as snow cover the hills as far as your blessed eyes can see. You can let the water, 35 degree Celsius, cascade on your body while standing on the edge of a cliff. It will be guaranteed to be the best shower you have ever taken. (Unfortunately to prevent further damage that maybe caused by human contact, the terraces are now closed to the public). No wonder Turks considers this place one of the eight wonders of their country. We also visited the Hierapolis near the hot springs. Many Roman and Byzantine ruins can be admired. I even found pieces of ancient pottery while walking. They seemed to be as old as the ruins.

One thing I will remember the most about my visit in Turkey will be the friendliness of people. I had visited Morocco before, another Moslem country and I had been harassed to death. But in this country, people were way more gentle. Sometimes we even joked with armed soldiers, they showed us their machine guns and everything. It seemed to me that there was no religious fanatics and the Turks in general were quite liberal. Most Turks are followers of Sunni Islam. Overall this was an excellent country to visit. I will recommend this place to anyone.

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Underground  cistern
Underground cistern

Underground Byzantine cistern in Istanbul
Underground Byzantine cistern in Istanbul

You can order fresh fish right from the boat
You can order fresh fish right from the boat

Scenery near Ephesus
Scenery near Ephesus

Donkey under some ancient underpass near Ephesus
Donkey under some ancient underpass near Ephesus

The great ancient city of Ephesus
The great ancient city of Ephesus

Great place to shower in the hot springs
Great place to shower in the hot springs

Two brothers I met in Turkey (Irish?)
Two brothers I met in Turkey (Irish?)

Couple sun tanning in spectacular Pamakule
Couple sun tanning in spectacular Pamakule

Myself, by the natural pools in Pamukkale
Myself, by the natural pools in Pamukkale

Laying down and letting the water rush on your body
Laying down and letting the water rush on your body

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Underground Byzantine cistern, the head of Medusa
Underground Byzantine cistern, the head of Medusa

Hotel where we stayed
Hotel where we stayed

Istanbul seen from our ferry
Istanbul seen from our ferry

Achille Lauro in Istanbul
Achille Lauro in Istanbul

Owner of a store sharing tea a Turkish tradition
Owner of a store sharing tea a Turkish tradition


Mark Snell from Youghal county of Cork


Hills near Izmir and Ephesus??


Old lady enjoying the springsin Pamukkale


Hot springs are for everyone


Overview of the cotton look-alike springs


Hierapolis in Pamukkale